Documenting the Co-Ed Killer case

Month: March 2019 (Page 2 of 4)

About Peter A. Chang, District Attorney

Chang prosecuted some of Santa Cruz County’s most notorious homicides in the 1970s and became known around the world for describing the bucolic town of Santa Cruz as “the murder capital of the world.”

Mr. Chang’s lurid description of his adopted hometown came at the height of a literally murderous period in Santa Cruz, 1970 to 1973, when his office prosecuted killers John Linley Frazier, Edmund Kemper III and Herbert Mullin. Mr. Chang personally prosecuted Frazier and Kemper and would have prosecuted the Mullin case, but was out with appendicitis.

Mr. Chang was born in Honolulu; his father, who was in the Navy, was based at Pearl Harbor at the time. When World War II ended, the family moved to Palo Alto and Mr. Chang was educated in local schools.

He was intensely interested in music and became a first-class trumpet player. By the time he was 14 he was playing in bands led by Stan Kenton, Harry James, Lionel Hampton, Louis Armstrong and other jazz stars.

After high school, Mr. Chang went to Menlo College for two years, then to Stanford University, where he graduated in 1958 with degrees in English literature and American history. He went into Stanford law school, graduating in 1961.

He then started looking for a job and immediately ran into resistance. “A lot of criminal defense firms were not willing to hire Asian Americans,” his son, Christopher Chang, said the other day. Mr. Chang was of Korean descent.

In a 1991 interview with Champion, the magazine of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, Mr. Chang said, “no one at that time thought an Asian could stand toe-to-toe with an Irishman in a criminal courtroom.”

He finally got a job with the Monterey County district attorney as a junior prosecutor and found he was “absolutely no good at it at first and lost the first 11 cases that I prosecuted,” he told the magazine. He took speech and drama lessons and “watched all the good trial lawyers in the area,” and finally learned how to speak in public.

In 1966, he ran for district attorney in Santa Cruz County and defeated the veteran incumbent by a wide margin, becoming, at 29, the youngest district attorney in the United States and the only Asian American to hold such a post.

In 1974, Mr. Chang lost a race for a Superior Court judgeship and went into private practice in Santa Cruz, but his life soon took a sharp turn downward. He started drinking so heavily that by “1982, I had lost my practice, my family and everything that had been dear to me,” he told Champion magazine in 1991. “I would still walk five miles in the rain, if necessary, to be at a bar when it opened.” He ultimately joined Alcoholics Anonymous, got sober, and went back to practicing law in 1983.

He won an appointment to the faculty of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, teaching courses in the summer, and was elected to the organization’s board in 1991. For the past decade, Mr. Chang concentrated on the defense of narcotics and white-collar cases in federal court.

Mr. Chang passed away in 2005 at age 67.


“Hi, Mr. Chang!”

Kemper greeted Santa Cruz District Attorney Chang like an old friend when Chang confronted him at police headquarters after reaching Pueblo (Colorado). He exclaimed for all the world like the host of a gala party greeting an arriving guest. In sharp contrast to his menacing size, too, during the taping of his confession to purge himself of his inner torments, he was as gentle as the proverbial lamb.

“He was extremely affable, cooperative, and articulate, and intelligent” said Chang to journalists when he returned to Santa Cruz.

One of the detectives present later told newsmen Kemper reminded him of a little kid who had vowed to amend his hell-raising ways and was eager to prove the sincerity of his promises to be good. In any event, he proved to be the soul of cooperation and was eager to do anything to make things easier for the authorities. He unhesitatingly signed his waiver of extradition to California. He underwent no change of heart, which so often happens when violent criminals in the throes of remorse unburden their hearts, only to reverse themselves after they have had time to think it over.

Excerpt from True Detective magazine, October 1978

A letter from Ed Kemper

A rare piece: a fully handwritten letter by Ed Kemper to a male penpal, from 1995. It is rare because Kemper typed most of his letters. It is about two pages long. Here is a transcript of the last two paragraphs of the letter:

Spencer Michaels, a field reporter with McNeil Lehrer, passed me in the hallway recently. He had a crew with him, as well as the Warden’s Ad Asst. It was nice that he remembered me from an interview in the early 80s when he was out on the coast with KPIX channel 4. Oops-That’s KRON I guess. (who watches the local news in prison?)

I don’t do media interviews anymore – they want only to rake over the pain and ashes of 22 years ago. There’s nothing “new” there except anguish and I can do that without the corporate sponsors and audience share actuarials, thank you very much. When a lifer is the subject, who but him is concerned with healing? (if then…)

Gonna get this mailed – take care.



This letter is part of my collection of true crime collectibles.

List of 17 books narrated by Edmund Kemper for Volunteers of Vacaville – The Blind Project (Part 2 of 2)

Ed Kemper has read onto tape cassettes more books for the blind than any other prisoner. He has spent more than 5,000 hours in a booth before a microphone in the last 10 years and has more than four million feet of tape and several hundred books to his credit. The full list of these books has not been found yet.

Women of Eden
By: Marilyn Harris
Read by: Ed Kemper
Date Recorded/Cataloged: 4/15/1995

This Other Eden
By: Marilyn Harris
Read by: Ed Kemper
Date Recorded/Cataloged: 3/28/1996

By: Robin Cook 
Read by: Ed Kemper
Date Recorded/Cataloged: 11/28/1996
Spies and thrillers

Tangled Web
By: Giles A. Lutz
Read by: Ed Kemper
Date Recorded/Cataloged: 12/31/1996
Mystery and detectives

Trumpet of the Swan, The
By: E.B. White
Read by: Ed Kemper
Date Recorded/Cataloged: 7/8/1998
Children’s books

Ellis Island
By: F. Stewart 
Read by: Ed Kemper
Date Recorded/Cataloged: 12/31/1998

Bowdrie’s Law
By: Louis L’Amour
Read by: Ed Kemper
Date Recorded/Cataloged: 11/2/1999

Merlin’s Mirror
By: Andre Norton
Read by: Ed Kemper
Date Recorded/Cataloged: ¼/2002

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